A self-administered test to screen for early dementia, and it could help speed the diagnosis and subsequent treatment of memory disorders, including Alzheimer's disease, has been designed by researchers.
The handwritten self-assessment, which can take less than 15 minutes to complete, is a reliable tool for evaluating cognitive abilities.
The discovery has been explained in the current issue of the journal Alzheimer Disease and Associated Disorders.
Douglas Scharre, a neurologist at the Ohio State University Medical Center, developed the Self-Administered Gerocognitive Examination (SAGE) to help identify individuals with mild thinking and memory impairments at an early stage.
The research shows four out of five people (80 percent) with mild thinking and memory (cognitive) issues will be detected by this test, and 95 percent of people who are normal thinking will have normal SAGE scores.
Scharre, who specializes in treating Alzheimer's disease, said treatments for Alzheimer's and dementia are more effective when they are introduced in the earliest stage of the disease. Unfortunately, he said he often sees patients more than three to four years after the first symptoms of a cognitive impairment began to appear.
"It's a recurring problem," said Scharre. "People don't come in early enough for a diagnosis, or families generally resist making the appointment because they don't want confirmation of their worst fears. Whatever the reason, it's unfortunate because the drugs we're using now work better the earlier they are started."